The Boyaner Rebbe’s Bonfire – An Interview with MK Menachem Eliezer Moses


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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

YH: Shalom Aleichem and thanks for the interview.  Generally Knesset members are very busy but with the Corona isolations, I imagine you have a bit more time.  What is your name again for our readers?

MEM:  Menachem Eliezer Moses

YH: And you are the Knesset member in charge?

MEM:  Yes

YH:  And you are a Boyaner Chossid?

MEM: No, Vizhnitz, but Biyan and Vizhnitz are very closely connected and related.

YH: I see. How is that?

MEM:   Rav Menachem Mendel the author of the Tzemach Tzaddik was the son-in-law of Reb Yisroel of Rizhin – who established Biyan Chassidus.

YH: Generally speaking, the Meron lighting is Eretz Yisroel’s largest attended event – with, in the past there being 350,000 people attending and a huge air-conditioned tent. Will there still be a hadlakah in Meron this year during Lag BaOmer?

MEM:  Yes.  There are actually three hadlakos that are scheduled..

YH: But are there going to be a large amount of people there in attendance?

MEM:  No.  The Biyaner Rebbe and others are well aware of the need for social distancing.  There will only be ten people at each of the lightings.

YH: How many are there during, say, pre-corona times? And b’ezras Hashem when this Mageifa will be over?

MEM:  Generally there are 19 hadlakos.

YH: And these are lit at the kever of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron?

MEM:  Yes, of course.

YH: Usually, the Boyaner Rebbe was always first.  How did it come about that the Boyaner Rebbe is in charge?

MEM:  The zchus hadlaka was purchased 180 years ago by Rav Avrohom Yaakov Friedman from the Sfardim who were in charge of the kvarim in Tzfas and in Meron. He built the Tiferes Yisroel Shul in the Old City and earned much favor with everyone in Eretz Yisroel at the time.  It was then that he purchased the zchus.  And they were very amenable. He handed the zchus down to Rav Yitzchok his eldest son and the first Rebbe of Boyan – who handed it down to his descendants.

YH: What year did that purchase happen?

MEM:  About 180 years ago, I do not know the exact year.

YH: So when will the 3 hadlakos be?

MEM:  The Boyaner Rebbe will light at 8:00 PM.  Then Rav Shlomo Amar the Rav haRashi will light at 10:00 PM and HaRav Shlomo Eliyahu will light at midnight.  It will disperse at 1:00 AM

YH: And that is it?  There will be no other hadlakos?

MEM:  Generally there are hadlakos in Bnei Brak and Tzanz but this year everyone wanted to stop them and just do this limited system. At first they wanted to do all 19/  But the toldos aharos rebbe, harav hatzaddik rav David kahn (And the toldot avroham Yitzchak Rebbe HaRav Hatzaddik Rav Shmuel kahn and the karlin admor boruch yaakov shochat all said that they will not do it because of the danger involved of spreading the Corona.

This year the goal was not to bring the gates (sh’arim) that are generally brought. [YH: I actually had no idea what he meant but I was too embarrassed to ask]

YH: Did the government give any problems and try to stop it?

MEM:  The memshallah did not make any problems – the impetus not to have it came from the Manhigut HaRuchni.  The Admorim felt that only the corona was central this year. But one can participate through the oil that will be lit..

YH: So it was lit for 180 years straight without a break?

MEM:  Yes, 180 years straight. When the Boyaner Rebbe didn’t arrive for one reason or another, he would appoint a shliach – either rav Kaplan or Rav Zilberman from tzfas.

Wait.  There was one year that there was an exception.  Taf shin chof zayin – during the sixth day war – there was an issur, a prohibition, to light then.  There was not enough miklats – bomb shelters, and there could be no lights.  In fact, they colored the windows so that no light would penetrate.

YH:  So what is it like being in Maron next to the kever when the bonfire is lit?

MEM:  Whoever stands at the lighting feels the actual light of the Zohar – its lichtikeit – you feel like Rav Shimon Bar Yochai is inserting something into your very heart.

YH: How long have you been going?

MEM:  I have been attending it since my own chalukah [YH: this was in 1949]

YH: Over the years what do people feel when they go?  What type of inspiration do they get?

MEM:  You develop a strong kesher with Torats Hanistar – aside from Toras Haniglah..

YH: What inspires you most when you go?

MEM:  Each year I am so excited When I see the hundreds of thousands of people and all  the achdus and ruchniyus in the merit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Also, just seeing the most simple people come: They see. They dance.. they connect and ask Rav Shimon bar Yochai to intercede for them and in his zchus they ask, “Give me a shidduch.”  “Please have my son, become a gutzgeit”

Also the singing of Bar Yochai of so many people is very inspiring!  Each year there are new Bar Yochai nigunning too..

There are chassidim, there are non chassidim, there are people that come that are not even frum.. men, women, children.  All of Klal Yisroel comes.

YH: Were there any cases of outright Nissim?

MEM:  Yes, of course.  With the Imrei Chaim, one person was very ill – in 1968 he was diagnosed with yenem machalah. His wife overturned worlds and she desired a yeshuah.  The Rebbe writes in a letter, I will travel to Meron and Daven for a yeshuah – and he will have one.  The Rebbe was 80.  Usually it took 4 hours travel time, he davened there.. He wrote upon his return Dovid Ben Rachel will have a yeshuah. I was in Meron.. I placed a kvittel on his grave.

When he got the letter, back in New York, he walked out of the hospital..  He was in a hospital during this time.

YH: Historically, what happened in Meron – before the Boyaner Rebbe purchased the zchus hadlakah?

MEM:  The Beit Yoseph was in tzfat.. the last 40 years of his life.  His maggid she’arim told him to learn the sefer hazohar in a group on chol hamoed sukkos.  They took the arba minim.. at that time they learned the Zohar and did the hakafot in parshas emor – the cloudsbegan to rain.  The Beit Yoseph and his group were concerned because the Mishnah says when it rains it is a siman rah on that night.

But  the malach who he learned with said that this rain is different.  The term shafach lo kitron al panav does not apply here.  Because the arba minim is a segulah for rain.  The Orach chaim HaKadosh in taf kuf alef  (779 years ago) once went to the kever on LaG BaOmer. Hhe began to arise he said who can possibly withstand all this kedusha? What does the shlah hakadosh write? Hhe writes how many nissim hayu sham.. learn zohar beyirah, without aveilut v’atzvut Beyirah –  az zochim lekol!


YH:  This is what we need now..

MEM:  Yes, true.

YH: Does the minhag of doing the chalukah the cutting of the hair go back to the time of the Arizal as well?

MEM:  Yes.  The arizal would do a chalukah there as well.  Rav chaim vital writes that the arizal brought his son Rav Moshe

YH: Will there be any chalukos this year?

MEM:  No.  Each person should do it at home as if he was there and it will counted as if it was done at the Kever itself.  This is what the Admorim say for this year.

YH:  What else can you tell me about the traditions of this lighting?

MEM:  It is known that this hadlaka brings light for the entire year..

YH: Where there any Roshei memshallah, ever in attendance?

MEM:  Yes, I remember when Bibi Netanyahu was there 15 years ago.. Arik Sharon also came also.

YH: Who as in charge of Meron making it a possibility that such a crowd could be held?

MEM:  All we see in meron the places the benches, the tent, – this was all done by the government..

How does everyone get there?

MEM:  With the Likud, the sar hatachburah was Yisroel Katz.  He is a yid who puts on Tefillin.  He arranged for the train to karmiel..

YH:  How old are you, yourself?

MEM:  Because of ayin hara. We do not say.

YH: Are you going this year?

MEM:  No.

YH: What positions did you hold in the Knesset?

MEM:  I have been the sgan saar hachinuch. For Yahadut HaTorah

YH: Are you continuing in the new unity government?

MEM:  No. I gave 10 years to the Knesset in this position and 30 years altogether – and it is time to move on.

YH: What will you be doing?

MEM:  I am learning Torah.. I am writing.

YH: Thank you so much for your time.  Hatzlacha and bracha!

MEM:  Amain!

This year we need our connection with Rabbi Shimon more than ever. The Boyaner Kehillah is working to make participation possible for thousands of yidden from around the world. YWN will keep you updated with any new information.

The author can be reached at [email protected]



  1. This year the goal was not to bring the gates (sh’arim) that are generally brought. [YH: I actually had no idea what he meant but I was too embarrassed to ask]

    I’m sure you’re aware that “Sha’ar” also means a price.

    Jastrow gives two definitions for Sha’ar: 1) gate, open place for public and private transactions; 2) market, market price. Then under a separate heading, Sha’ar II, he gives: estimation, proportion.